Editorial: In Defense of 'Batman v. Superman' & DC Film Universe
by Dan Marcus
April 22, 2015
The first teaser trailer for Zack Snyder’s highly anticipated sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was unveiled on Friday – and expectedly, there were plenty that loved it and plenty that didn’t. There were some that praised the trailer’s dark tone but some that argued the trailer was too oppressively bleak. At the center of this debate lies a microcosm of Warner Bros. and DC Comics' approach to how they are handling their cinematic universe – which has created plenty of detractors, including those on Marvel’s side already accustomed with how to build a comic universe on film. However, I believe the trailer represents what WB and DC are trying to do in direct contrast with what Marvel has done, and that's okay.
If you haven't watched the Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice teaser, here you go:
First of all, it should be noted that when the trailer was unveiled on Friday, it was after an international version leaked online a day prior. It also came right after the second teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuted to high praise, where it was unfortunately trampled on by fans that were still busy swinging around their lightsabers in euphoric joy. This was clearly not how Warner Bros. envisioned the rollout of the hotly demanded first trailer to their superhero epic would go. Warner Bros. intended for die-hard fans to see the trailer in IMAX when they offered fans a chance to see the trailer early in theaters around the country – not to see the trailer on computer screens via a blurry cam recording.
It didn’t exactly go “according to plan” (not to steal words from a certain Joker) as WB had to deal with their plans unexpectedly being thwarted. Nevertheless, WB and Zack Snyder followed through with their plans – not to be deterred by pirates – and showcased an exclusive IMAX trailer with extra footage and an introduction by Zack Snyder himself. I was fortunate enough to attend one of those screenings. It’s so unfortunate some fans had their first glimpse at footage from the film via a blurry cam recording because seeing the trailer on the giant IMAX screen was incredible – especially since Snyder actually shot portions of the film natively in the giant IMAX film format.
After the screening, I received the IMAX posters of Batman and Superman that debuted last week – plus a free pass to see the film a week early in IMAX. For those that say Warner Bros. doesn’t treat their fans well, the event went a long way to turn the tide on that notion. It also helped curve some of the backlash the leaked trailer created. Not everything goes “according to plan” but sometimes – like Batman and Superman will next spring - you gotta roll with the punches. All things considered, Snyder and the studio went with the flow pretty well for the most part.
Of course, there are still plenty of fans that aren’t convinced. The trailer was too bleak, it was too depressing. Where was the awe and excitement? Marvel gets praised all the time for creating movies that are fun and lighthearted, even though critics are already calling Avengers: Age of Ultron darker and more serious than its predecessor. To play devil’s advocate, some Marvel fans are calling Netflix’s "Daredevil" the best thing Marvel has done yet – which is amusing given how that show is incredibly serious and dark. However, this isn’t meant to criticize Marvel Studios (or the fans) and the excellent work they’ve been doing ever since the first Iron Man movie. This is to address those that would critique what WB and DC are doing and to say, “Hold up a bit.”
First of all, the DC Comics cinematic universe is just beginning. If we choose to ignore the Green Lantern movie starring Ryan Reynolds (as most fans would probably enjoy doing anyway), then Man of Steel was the first ‘chapter’ in this new cinematic universe that WB and DC are trying to create. Batman v Superman will be the second film in this universe and you can already tell how WB/DC are planting the seeds with the first trailer. Many people criticized Man of Steel for ignoring the devastation that occurred in the film’s final act – and I was one of them. However, those concerns are addressed in the opening moments of the trailer.
As we slowly approach a Superman statue in what’s presumably a part of a Metropolis that’s in the middle of being rebuilt, we hear voice-over of many different people arguing for and against Superman – who he is and what he means for the world at large. As we get closer, lights reveal the words “false god” as we hear people chanting “go home”. Clearly not everyone was happy with how Superman handled Zod and the destruction in Man of Steel. This is indubitably directed towards some of the fans that had issues with that. As I was one of those people, I was very relieved to see that addressed within the first 30 seconds of the very first trailer for the film.
Beyond addressing fans’ concerns, the footage also sets up what is assuredly going to be the main conflict of the film’s story: gods and larger-than-life beings existing on this planet. There are those in the past that have criticized DC’s pantheon of superheroes and admittedly you can understand why. Unlike Marvel, whose superheroes are usually embedded with relatable problems that make them palatable and tangible to readers and audiences, DC’s superheroes are different. Most of DC’s superheroes are god-like figures that either come from distant worlds or strange places. Most of Marvel’s superheroes come from Earth – such as Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man or the X-Men. Even the heroes that don’t come from Earth are characters – such as a walking, emoting tree or talking raccoon – that are full of problems and worries. Most of DC’s superheroes come from the sky, under the seas or beyond – such as Superman, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern (although admittedly usually the person that inhabits the Green Lantern Corps ring comes from Earth). They are fantastical beings and are treated as such.
Marvel focuses on heroes that you can connect with on a personal level – Spider-Man is who we wish we could be as outcasts in high school. If you’ve ever been a repressed minority or felt different, then reading issues of X-Men might have empowered you to feel good about not blending in. DC is usually about heroes that you fantasized about being as a kid. When I was growing up, I remember wishing that I could have been rich and fight crime as Batman. I wished that I could fly and have superpowers like Superman. I wished that I could have rode a giant sea horse and swam with the fishes – well, maybe not the last one.
Warner Bros. has the seemingly insurmountable task to take these larger-than-life, god-like figures and make them tangible to audiences – and it’s not an easy feat. However, by addressing Superman’s place in the world and what he means to humanity, it’s a first step in dealing with that paradox. We know by the end of Batman v Superman that Batman and Superman will set aside their differences, learn to work together and eventually form the Justice League.
However, in order to get to that point, we need conflict. We need to see people question Superman’s presence in our world – just as Batman will do. It paves the way for other fantastic beings to be introduced in this world, such as Wonder Woman, Aquaman and others. People are wondering, “Why is Batman fighting Superman?” Well, why did Iron Man, Captain America and Thor fight in The Avengers? Why will they fight again in Captain America: Civil War? Not just because we love seeing those characters fight, but because we also love seeing them get past their differences to work together. It took nearly an entire film for The Avengers to stop bickering with each other and work as a team. Should it be any different for Batman, Superman and the rest of the Justice League?
Those are some of the differences between DC and Marvel – but those differences should be celebrated, not argued. Of course there are going to be fans of DC that will defend their heroes that they grew up with to their last, dying breath – just like there are going to be fans of Marvel that will defend their heroes in the same fashion. In this new climate where we get three or more superhero movies a year – and judging by what’s to come in the next five years and beyond, that number is only going to get higher – diversity should be embraced. Do we want all of our superhero movies to be the same? Of course we don’t.
Even with Marvel, the comics have gone to some pretty dark places – places the Marvel cinematic universe is about to head in fairly soon if Phase 3 is any indication. The same can be said for DC Comics as well. Even if Batman v Superman seems dark and gloomy based on the trailer, there will undoubtedly be moments of levity when the film comes out next year. Captain America: The Winter Soldier went to some pretty dark places but had plenty moments of fun and levity as well.
If anything, the next five to ten years should be exciting for both fans of DC and Marvel – heck, it should be exciting for comic-book fans period. However, let’s wait until we’ve declared judgment on what WB and DC are doing –when they’ve really only just begun. Let’s not forget that after Batman v Superman opens next March, we get David Ayer's Suicide Squad just a few months later in August. That will be a movie focusing entirely on villains – since when have we seen that in the comic-book movie genre? We’re also seeing Wonder Woman finally get her own big-screen adventure in summer 2017 before leading up to Justice League: Part 1 in November 2017. By the time that happens, we’ll have seen four movies in DC’s cinematic universe – just one movie short of the amount of Marvel movies we had before The Avengers came out three years ago. So, if anything, WB/DC are on the right track. Let’s at least give them the benefit of the doubt before throwing down the hammer – or shield. What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Are you excited for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Sound off in the comments below!
This is very well said, but I don't think it's alienating to fans WHERE the heroes come from. I just think Marvel puts more work into their secret identities. Nobody cares what Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent are doing. But we love Peter Parker and Steve Rogers. So we can relate to Marvel's heroes but not DCs. They have a few. Robin and The Flash are good examples. It just seems like an overall difference in approach. It makes sense that the movies also have a difference. And the Daredevil concept is dark so it makes sense to make the show dark. Superman's a bright and colorful, cheerfully encouraging hero, never been that dark... Yeah, some dark occurrences but not just overall dark like this movie appears to be. It seems odd to begin the DC universe with what looks a lot like The Dark Knight Returns which is more an ending than a beginning. I do think Batman V. Superman looks pretty bleak (even though it also looks pretty cool) but I'm still excited to see it. All in all, I'd say I'm cautiously optimistic for what both studios are doing. And I liked reading this.
Jonathan on Apr 22, 2015
It's nice to see someone finally stand up for DC and present a unbiased opinion. I'm a fan of both marvel and dc and grew up reading stories from both universes. It really bothers me how people criticize everything DC is trying to do. Man of Steel was not a perfect movie. It did have some great elements to it and I thought it was a pretty good movie. Superman is a powerful character and very difficult to portray but I thought Snyder did a good job. I liked that it wasn't a joke-fest and had a more serious nature because he was dealing with life changing decisions. The trailer for Batman v Superman looked awesome and I can't wait to see it in IMAX. Affleck looks awesome in the suit and I feel like they have a top notch cast. I only hope people can reserve their judgment till the actual movie comes out.
Jason Savinon on Apr 22, 2015
I think it's great. I am so happy with the dark direction they are going because it feels more REAL. That's exactly how this world would treat Superman. Half the people would be worshiping him and the other half would hate him, both in very deep complex ways. This world would not welcome him, not like the movies of past. Zak's approach feels like what I would see on TV if it was really happening. I also think the Bat suit and helmet look great. I am stoked for this one.
Travisaurus on Apr 22, 2015
affleck looked great as batman!
ari smulders on Apr 22, 2015
In Defense I think there's a trick to this movie trailer. Almost all movie trailers show what they want you to believe, but the movies all turn out to have some twist of events, like Terminator Genisys for example. They made us believe the early on that the Liquid metal shape shifting T-1000 was going to be the main villain again, just to throw a curve ball and display a new robotic version of John Conner as the main culprit, not to forget too that Arnold will also have his hands full with his own version T-800 as well (the same cgi version that failed in Cristian Bales Terminator movie) I Think only a small sub part of the Batman v Superman trailer is displayed here to maybe explain the title of the movie. Eventually they'll hold hands and fight a greater evil cause that's what they do, fight crime together. There are many heroes and villains (cameos by Aquaman and Wonder woman etc etc) still to be displayed later when future trailers arrive and that could totally change the look of the movie again. Plus lets not forget that Cristian Bales Darker more serious Batman movies were much bigger financial successes than all the earlier lighthearted crap versions of Batman. Even a darker more serious James Bond in Daniel Craig turned out to be much bigger successes than all the other more plastic unrealistic crappy versions of title character. I personally think it feels more realistic and in tune with modern times. Even the last Iron Man and Captain America movies were the best for me, because they too were more serious than the more lighthearted previous movies in the Marvel universe. Plus every time someone complains about the new Man of steel I cant help but imagine they want him to don his Red underpants over his blue suit because that's what superman is. Removing those undies was the best move ever.
Shade on Apr 22, 2015
Asking again, Does it not appear to be the bat wing blowing the shit ou t of like 4 or more guys in the trailer?
Brian Sleider on Apr 22, 2015
Well written article - a sincere marvel fan.
Vespertilio on Apr 22, 2015
I agree with everything that you said, I have been on board for BvS since Gadot and Affleck were casted! This whole debate about how Gadot doesn't have the right physique to play her is BS. There has only been one actress to play her and that is Linda Carter. Watch her destroy and make the people who hated her casting eat crow. I say lets all have FAITH!! People were apprehensive about Marvel and they all ate crow after Avengers! Gadot, Affleck, Cavhill will all nail it I am sure of it! And Suicide Squad should be insanely good!!! We got a few months till Comic Con and we will get blasted with more epicness of BvS. I love the darker feel that DC is going. That will distinct them from Marvel. And I will like both DC and Marvel movies
Tyler Cobaugh on Apr 22, 2015
I think we all have to remind ourselves that the "haters" out there make up a fraction of those who will be paying good money to see this movie.
DAVIDPD on Apr 22, 2015
I just didn't like that Batman voice. He sounded like a robot.
OfficialJab on Apr 23, 2015
Yeah, wondered how Affleck was gonna pull off a good bat-voice. As others have noted though (previous articles), that's may be just how he sounds in that particular suit. (?)
avconsumer2 on Apr 23, 2015
I THINK it has to do with the suit, but I for one didn't mind it. I loved Bale's Batman but I think i prefer Ben's voice, ugh can't believe i said that.
Franklin Carpio on Apr 23, 2015
I actually like the voice because it sounds like he's talking through a voice scrambler, which would make sense given that he's a millionaire with a lot more complex technology.
Danimal on Apr 23, 2015
I will pose this question ... was it even Batman asking the question ... or could it have been Lex? Remember these trailers always might seem like showing us plain as day, only to have a slight twist
John Ropes on Apr 23, 2015
Well you can hear Lex's voice earlier in the trailer, and if it were Lex I'd have the same problem with his voice too.
OfficialJab on Apr 24, 2015
Yeah, dunno, just still skeptical of the Affleck casting. I enjoy the majority of his work, but Batman? Hope he proves me wrong. I really want to like this universe. So much potential.
avconsumer2 on Apr 23, 2015
Well said and well written. I understand there will always be fan-boys and die hard fans, I for one am a huge Batman fan, which is why i threw a little fit when Ben was cast... but the trailer looked great and he looks bad ass as Batman (then again anyone can with a sick Batman suit), But over all we are all movie fans and let Marvel be Marvel and lets all just enjoy the ride that DC is about to bring about. They are going to play catch up for a bit but I'm excited to see what the DC world is going to bring.
Franklin Carpio on Apr 23, 2015
One thing just occurred to me: the comics (both DC and Marvel) have been around for over 50 years. Yet, Batman, Superman and Spiderman never (almost never) age. The comics always take place in the "present" whether the present is 1966 or 2015, and Spidey is always a young kid and Superman is always a 33 year old dude. With film, it's going to be different. Chris Evans or Henry Cavill can't play Captain America and Superman forever. The studios are trying to keep a sense of consistency by retaining actors for specific roles in every movie. I wonder if Marvel Studios or WB have a long term plan on how to handle their mortal actors playing immortal characters?
TheOct8pus on Apr 23, 2015
This was a good read, thank you Dan. There is but one thing I take issue with. If there is one thing Zack did perfectly in Man of Steel(which I adored) is that he made Superman relatable. Growing up on a farm in Kansas, going through all the bullying and teasing that any child might. Kevin costner was amazing in his role as his father who taught him to be humble and respect his power. He may be an alien but he's as human as they come.
Jon Odishaw on Apr 23, 2015
For the people I've discussed it with, it isn't the "darker tone," of the DC movies. It's a feeling of hopelessness, that the darkness seeps into everything in the DCU and there's no one, not even Superman who is supposed to represent hope, that stands against it. The Winter Soldier, and Daredevil are both "dark," but not without hope or balance. I would LOVE to be excited for BVS, I'm a comic book, movie, animated series fan; not a "It's got to be DC OR Marvel" fanboy. However, from the trailer I saw it left me nonplussed. More of the same "we've got to be gritty to separate ourselves from what the other side is doing."
R3last on Apr 23, 2015
Quite frankly, I love this article. It sums up exactly how I have felt about the DC/Marvel debate. I think Marvel is amazing. I love what they've done/are doing. I think DC is "behind," sure. That said, I don't think they've "lost" any battle. What battle is there? I love both. I love the Avengers, but I also love the dark tone that WB/DC is trying to show. Do I want to forget Green Lantern? Sure. Does Marvel ignore the original Hulk? Sure they do. They made huge mistakes by letting go of their characters, but of course we never blame them for that (All of this said, I think that Marvel is amazing). Also, DC can TOTALLY build their universe in a slightly different fashion. I've mentioned this before on here, but why is it "rushed" if they introduce/tease more characters in the first movie? That to me screams "a single universe" more than 6 different movies to explain each separate character. Do I want a rushed "creation" of each character? Absolutely not. But one thing about Marvel's method that I don't love is that they are all tied together, but somehow each movie completely ignores the presence of each other character with the exception of maybe 2 to 3 forced references to other characters. Maybe DC is attempting to make something different/better than that? We'll see. All this said, I will be clear in that Marvel has done the "better" job thus far. DC is amazing with their trailers (I seriously thought Man of Steel was going to be amazing, but I was totally disappointed with the story, and the fact that it kind of dragged on...I love long movies, but that movie drug on). DC has amazing opportunities ahead of them, I just hope they capitalize and can produce something fun and entertaining, just as Marvel has done.
I'm Batman on Apr 23, 2015
Amazing article! A great, detailed description of the two universes. For my own comment, I do think it's ironic that a lot of Marvel Fans praise the new Daredevil show on Netflix but they dislike the dark tone of the DC Cinematic Universe. Don't get me wrong, Daredevil was breathtaking and had me on the edge of the seat multiple times. However, it is super dark and gritty (Example: There was child-trafficking for starters.)
Jesse on Apr 23, 2015
It's a case of dark characters should be adapted dark the ones that aren't shouldn't. No matter what. SUperman done properly should never be a dark, angsty joyless character. And even the dark grimm daredevil had 10x more heart than the new film version of superman.
chrizmyller on Apr 8, 2016
"If we choose to ignore the Green Lantern movie starring Ryan Reynolds (as most fans would probably enjoy doing anyway), then Man of Steel was the first ‘chapter’ in this new cinematic universe that WB and DC are trying to create." Regardless of what viewers choose to do with the 2011 Green Lantern film, the fact is that it is flat out not in continuity with this series of films. Man of Steel is the starting point to this DC film universe. Not Green Lantern, not The Dark Knight Trilogy, not Superman Returns, not the 1960s Batman television series. Man of Steel is officially the first 'chapter'. The director, cast, writers and producers have all stated as much on multiple occasions. Aside from that... nice article 😉
SwampSpectre on Apr 24, 2015
I love this movie. The critics seem irrelevant nowadays at best.
Stuart King on Mar 28, 2016
Well, the movies out, it's a year later and... Superman was still bleak morose joyless and selth loathing. So basically superman in name appearance and powers only. Not truely superman because he lacked the personality core to who he is as a character. Batman used lethal force as a first resort and in spite of the fact that he's supposed to be one of the most brilliant deductive and logical minds in the world he was easily duped and manipulated so, he looked like batman and fought (except for the stupid branding and shooting people nonsense) like batman but wasn't truly batman as he violated aspects that are absolutes in the core of who he is as a character. We have a villain whose motivation is "because" We have plot holes and nonsensical resolutions "Martha? We're best friends now!" So, yeah, all the hate for the movie is justified and then some. It was going to make money no matter what. Good bad or mediocre this film was going to make money. And no film has been more deserving of its record breaking second weekend drop off. WORLD WIDE. Warner Execs had been quoted as saying anything less than a billion globally would be a disappointment. On it's first weekend it was on pace for that. After the drop of most analysts and experts are saying its on pace for 800.
chrizmyller on Apr 8, 2016
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